2015 Toyota Yaris front 3/4 view
  • Image Credit: Dan Roth
2015 Toyota Yaris rear 3/4 view
  • Image Credit: Dan Roth
2015 Toyota Yaris front 3/4 view
  • Image Credit: Dan Roth
2015 Toyota Yaris rear 3/4 view
  • Image Credit: Dan Roth
2015 Toyota Yaris side view
  • Image Credit: Dan Roth
2015 Toyota Yaris front view
  • Image Credit: Dan Roth
2015 Toyota Yaris rear view
  • Image Credit: Dan Roth
2015 Toyota Yaris front detail
  • Image Credit: Dan Roth
2015 Toyota Yaris headlight
  • Image Credit: Dan Roth
2015 Toyota Yaris wheel
  • Image Credit: Dan Roth
2015 Toyota Yaris taillight
  • Image Credit: Dan Roth
2015 Toyota Yaris badge
  • Image Credit: Dan Roth
2015 Toyota Yaris engine
  • Image Credit: Dan Roth
2015 Toyota Yaris interior
  • Image Credit: Dan Roth
2015 Toyota Yaris interior
  • Image Credit: Dan Roth
2015 Toyota Yaris front seats
  • Image Credit: Dan Roth
2015 Toyota Yaris rear seats
  • Image Credit: Dan Roth
2015 Toyota Yaris seat detail
  • Image Credit: Dan Roth
2015 Toyota Yaris gauges
  • Image Credit: Dan Roth
2015 Toyota Yaris infotainment system
  • Image Credit: Dan Roth
2015 Toyota Yaris climate controls
  • Image Credit: Dan Roth
2015 Toyota Yaris shifter
  • Image Credit: Dan Roth
2015 Toyota Yaris dash
  • Image Credit: Dan Roth
2015 Toyota Yaris door controls
  • Image Credit: Dan Roth
2015 Toyota Yaris rear cargo area
  • Image Credit: Dan Roth
  •   Engine
    1.5L I4
  •   Power
    106 HP / 103 LB-FT
  •   Transmission
    4-Speed Automatic
  •   Drivetrain
    Front-Wheel Drive
  •   Engine Placement
    Front
  •   Curb Weight
    2,335 LBS
  •   Seating
    2+3
  •   Cargo
    15.6 CU-FT
  •   MPG
    30 City / 36 HWY
  •   Base Price
    $15,640
  •   As Tested Price
    $17,708
  •  
Taken objectively, the Toyota Yaris isn't the best car among its peers. In the last few years, the Yaris ceded major tracts of its once-lonely sandbox to new competition. To fully understand the 2015 Yaris, I drove one for a week, and came away with a fresh impression of Toyota's subcompact hatch.

Toyota is touting the new attitude of the Yaris. The company tasked its French design studio with bringing a little hot hatch flair to the party. That's mostly marketing hyperbole, but the car does look a lot better than it used to. What's more, the seats and interior materials have been upgraded, the body is more rigid, there's more sound insulation, and the suspension is retuned. There's even a 44-pound curb-weight reduction.

I drove the five-door Yaris LE, the mid-level trim between the basic L and more 'sporty' SE. It rings the register at $17,708 with destination; a price that puts it in the meat of a fiercely competitive class of vehicles. The biggest surprise is that I like it. A lot. I thought it was going to be miserable, but it's disarmingly competent. It's just a car – maybe not much of a car in total – but the Yaris is satisfyingly comfortable in its own skin. Instead of trying to be a smartphone on wheels, the Yaris is simple and easy. Every component just does what it's supposed to do.

Driving Notes

  • There's nothing revolutionary about the powertrain, but the Yaris goes down the road with competence. The 1.5-liter, 106-horsepower engine and four-speed automatic transmission are well-matched. The car doesn't feel underpowered, but it's certainly not quick. The transmission shifts crisply.
  • Steering is well-weighted, direct, and quick to respond. It even loads up in the middle of turns to communicate what's up on the road surface. Impressive.
  • Forward visibility is pretty great, too, with that big ol' windshield.
  • The added spotwelds must be in the right places, because the body doesn't flex or feel flimsy. The Yaris isn't as solid as a Ford Fiesta, but it's not an overcooked noodle, either.
  • The car's interior is plain but not horrific. It's dressed up nicely; I mean, the dash is padded. Still, there's lots of plastic that feels cheap and flimsy. You can't complain about a cheap interior in a cheap car, and this is a nice, cheap interior.
  • The seats may be a new design, but they're not newly comfortable. They make you squirm after a while.
  • The Entune Audio head unit is standard for all Yaris models. It's the same kind of system you'll find in Scions, and it sounds decent. Better than past Toyotas, that's for sure.
  • The flat floor in the backseat makes it feel roomy, and there's a surprising amount of space, depending on who's sitting in front of you.
  • Cargo area is very functional. The hatch opens wide and space is generous for a car with such a compact footprint.
  • Overall, the biggest surprise is how well the Yaris drives. It's light on its feet, and the suspension is neither crashy nor floaty.

The 2015 Yaris is the kind of Toyota that built the company into what it is today. It's definitely not the best in its class – in fact, when you consider the Honda Fit, Fiesta, and Chevy Sonic, there are compelling arguments to be made against the Yaris. The starting MSRP of the Yaris L is around $15,000. Better-equipped LE and SE trims push uncomfortably close to $20,000, and that's where it gets tough to make the case for the Toyota. But taken on its own, the Yaris is a solid choice. It's also probably my favorite Toyota at the moment, simply because it's friendly to drive in a way this company's products usually aren't. It's priced cheaply, but not built cheap. You get a full-fledged car that's actually kind of fun to drive. "It's a car," indeed. And a pretty good one at that.

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